Posted by: atowhee | July 31, 2015


The Old World vultures, not closely related to the “vultures” of North America, are large and fascinating birds…and many seem to be on their way out. And we humans can take all the credit.

Posted by: atowhee | July 31, 2015


At long last I am re-reading some of Justice William O. Douglas’s heartfelt environmental writings from the 1950s.  It was not a time for great conservation action.  It was before the Wilderness Act.  Before the Environmental Protection Agency.  More than decade before DDT was banned.  Years before lead additives were banned from gasoline…or house paint.  There were no National Scenic Rivers, no air pollution regs. No Nuclear Test Ban Treaty [how many Millenials even know what “fall out” means? Lucky them].  It was a dreamland for polluters and resource exploiters.

No wonder so many right-wingers wanted Douglas drive off the Supreme Court.  Douglas (1898-1980) was appointed to the court by President Franklin Roosevelt in 1939 when Douglas was only 40 years old.DOUGLES IN ROBESHe was a native of Washington State.

But what Douglas had to say then is still relevant, touching and brave.  Some select bits from My Wilderness The Pacific West.  1960.

Alaska’s Brooks Range: Brooks Range “…here were pools never touched by man—unspoiled, uncontaminated except by the fall-out from the atomic bombs that is slowly poisoning the whole earth.”

“We look to the heavens for help and uplift, but it is to the earth we are chained; it is from the earth that we must find out sustenance; it is on the earth that we must find solution to the problems that promise to destroy all life here.”

Charles Darwin in his Autobiography “If I had to live my life again, I would have made a rule to read some poetry and listen to some music at least once every week; for perhaps the parts of my brain now atrophied would thus have been kept active through use. The loss of these tastes is a loss of happiness, and may probably to the moral character, by enfeebling the emotional part of our nature.”

“I never sleep better than when I am under a tree, and all the trees I choose the Sitka spruce first.”

Hart Mountain in Eastern Oregon: “There is a place in man life’s for the antelope [pronghorn], just as there is for the whir of sage grouse and the song of the thrush. There would be a great emptiness in the land if there were no pelicans wheeling in great circles over Hart Mountain, no antelope fawn in its aspen groves, no red-shafted flickers in its willow. I say the same for the coyote and golden eagle.…This refuge will leave our grandsons and granddaughters an inheritance of the wilderness that no dollars could recreate… Those who visit Hart Mountain next century will know that we were faithful life tenants, that we did no entirely despoil the earth which we left them.”HART MTN

“It struck me that man sometimes seems to crowd everything but himself out of the universe.”

“Mt. Adams is so high and massive it makes me shrink to the pint of ashes that man represents in the terrestrial scheme. The roar of the river comes faintly up the canyon. Above the road can be heard the whine of the wind. All else is quiet. A golden eagle soars high in the void, catching a wind current. Nothing else moves.” Mt-Adams

“I have seen in my lifetime a wilderness of trails remade into a maze of roads. There is hardly a place these days a jeep will not reach. The network of roads is so vast and intricate that almost every wilderness area is threatened.”

“Man must be able to escape civilization if he is to survive.  Some of his greatest needs are for refuges and retreats where he can recapture for a day or a week the primitive conditions of life.”

Olympic Mountains, Washington: “At least fifty living glaciers flank these peaks, three on Mt. Olympus being two miles or more in length.”

For a sad comparison of those glaciers, past and present, click here to see how many have gone and how few survive in any form.

Wikipedia says this about one of the many public spaces or institutions named after this great conservationist: “The 1984 Washington Wilderness Act designated the Cougar Lake Roadless area as the William O. Douglas Wilderness. This wilderness, which adjoins Mount Rainier National Park in Washington State, is named in his honor.”




Posted by: atowhee | July 31, 2015


I’ve had the chance to bird Rotary Park a few times in the two weeks we’ve lived here.  Up to 22 species for the area so far.  It is much dryer than what appears to be usual.  The pond surface has shrunk down to a pondlet clogged with duck weed.  Much of the lakebed now overgrown with willow, cottonwood and grass.  Baker Creek is running low but the dense riparian habitat is full of berries and insects still

Rotary Park (Tice Park), Yamhill, Oregon, US
Jul 31, 2015 9:15 AM – 10:00 AM.  9 species

Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)  1
Eurasian Collared-Dove (Streptopelia decaocto)  1
Vaux’s Swift (Chaetura vauxi)  1
Anna’s Hummingbird (Calypte anna)  1
Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus)  1
Pacific-slope Flycatcher (Empidonax difficilis)  1
Steller’s Jay (Cyanocitta stelleri)  2
American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)  X
Red-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta canadensis)  1

Posted by: atowhee | July 31, 2015


Here is another series of shots of the Great Gray Owl family that Andy Huber has been aiding in northeastern Oregon,  widowed mother, four nestlings and much hunting to do.  Andy stepped in and live trapped small rodents for the family.  Success as all four owlets (a larger than usual “litter” this far south) are maturing and in full flight now. 21. GGO owlet with mouse 4713 IMG_0305 (1280x879) (1280x879) 22. GGO owlet swallowing mouse IMG_0314 (1280x853) (1280x853)Cleaning the talons: 23. GGO owlet still with downy feathers 7 21 15 IMG_9983 (985x1280) (985x1280) 24. GGO owlet with mouse IMG_9994 (974x1280) (974x1280) 30. GGO owlet having fun with water 7 20 15 3874  IMG_9644 (1280x956) (1280x956) 31. GGO owlet getting into it 7 20 15 3708 IMG_9637 (1280x963) (1280x963) 32. GGO owlet splashdance 3984 IMG_9640 (1280x904) (1280x904) 33. GGO owlet wet after the bath 3108 IMG_9737 (919x1280) (919x1280) 34. GGO owlet wet and fluffy 3392 IMG_9778 (1280x1034) (1280x1034)Preening post-ablutions. 35. GGO owlet wet cleaning wing feather 3227 IMG_9766 (1033x1280) (1033x1280) 40. GGO owlet in anticipation 7 19 15 4015  IMG_9202 (1280x1006) (1280x1006)

Posted by: atowhee | July 30, 2015


The Greenpeace protestors are hanging on, despite threatened fines from a local judge against Greenpeace.  Meanwhile Shell Oil can’t get its icebreaker out of Portland’s river harbor.  Here are pictures from the St. John’s Bridge (an art deco beauty BTW) taken by Tom Duane:protest1 protest2 protest3 protest5 protest6 protest7Meanwhile, Shell says it can’t drill in the Arctic Sea without its icebreaker present.  But if they keep fueling climate change there won;t be any ice and they can drill at the North Pole then.

Posted by: atowhee | July 30, 2015


The chattering classes which covers pols, lobbyists, reporters and their various apologists have given the “public trough” a bad name.  But in this instance I am speaking of a birdbath there for all birds to use.

One of the most frequent and presumably appreciative of the visitors to my public trough is the local Red-breasted Nuthatch.  Unlike the Bushtits he or she comes alone.  And the nuthatch alternates between taking a small piece of sunflower seed off to eat and then get a drink.

So delicate is this small bird’s beak work that taking a drink from an otherwise un-riffled birdbath stirs only the faintest of wavelets that the concentric circles move barely two inches from where the bird took its tiny sip.

When the nuthatch firsat arrives he clings to the side of our largest dawn redwood, then lands briefly on the feeder pole to complete his reconnoiter, then down to the platform or the bath.RBN LOOKS (1280x960) VA-AIR2 (1280x960)These blurs are part of a circling swarm of swift’s, Vaux’s to be exact.  At least twenty moved over our house as they worked the area one evening. VS-AIR1 (1280x960) WEB1 (1280x960) WEB2 (1280x960)In the shade beneath the trees of our garden are numerous “garden” spiders.  Small fellows with symmetrical, carefully woven webs.  Seen as a beautiful bit of architecture when the light is right.

I also noted my first passing dragonfly this morning.  The butterflies so far have been only cabbage white and one tiger swallowtail. There is a single squirrel.

Posted by: atowhee | July 30, 2015


Update, July 31: There is now talk of trying to ban Americans from trophy hunting. Not much likely of that passing in a Republican, freedom-uber-alles, Congress…but it’s an idea that may eventually spread.

And now Zimbabwe says it will definitely seek extradition of Mr. Palmer, DDS, from the U.S.

Teddy Roosevelt, Ernest Hemingway and a dentist from Minnesota.  Some of the infamous trophy hunters of the past 150 years.  But perhaps that dentist did something that will end up helping wildlife survive in spite of arrogant, ignorant, rapacious humans.  Perhaps…

Could Cecil death lead to end of trophy hunting, pay your money kill your trophy animal?  It’s big business for some African governments.  How about the world chip in and pay them so much for every week an animal is NOT killed?

Here’s one look at this case.

And here’s a second. Poor dentist had to shut his practice.  I predict he will move and assume a new name.  Pity any family he has.  Sometimes the cluelessness of white males astounds even me, and I’m one of those myself.  Can you imagine any woman anywhere hunting a lion with bow and arrow?

This will put even closer scrutiny on so-called conservation hunting.

Hunting is just one of the human activities that are making more and more species disappear in this sixth great extinction.

Posted by: atowhee | July 29, 2015


Here’s the latest update from Andy Huber on his work helping a widowed female Great Gray Owl raise her four youngsters in northeastern Oregon.  Andy live-trapped small rodents and then released near the owls to help with the prodigious effort of feeding many small prey to a hungry quartet of young.  Highly unlikely the lone female could have managed by herself.  Herewith Andy’s latest report, and then some more of his great photos [mouse lovers advised to avert your eyes]:
“The owls are all doing well.  Usually only the two youngest ones come for food now.  They will pick it off the ground, if I drop it near them.  But I’m still leaving some rodents for them at night, on the platform.  The mother and older owlets are probably getting some of that food too.
They are still enjoying the water, as you’ll see by the photos.
An interesting thing happened on July 14.  The mother and some of the youngsters were taking food in the evening (…which they seldom do anymore).  When they were mostly done eating, the mother flew to a nearby branch and gave several “normal” great gray owl hoots.  It was the same series of hoots that she had done very often when the chicks were still on the nest, and the male was still alive.  She was obviously calling to another GGO.  I had not heard her call like that since the male had been killed.  The only time she would hoot, was when there was danger overhead, and she was instructing the kids to be quiet.  Usually, she would only hoot once, and they would all be very still.  So it was very surprising to me that she was hooting that evening.
Then she flew off, and was gone for exactly one week.  Before that, I had seen her close by, guarding the young ones, practically every day.  As suddenly as she left, she came back and has been here each day since.  I am wondering if she had heard a potential mate, that might have been wandering through the area.??
Thanks for nudging me to write a book about the whole process.  Leigh Calvez has been here again several times, and she will include much of it in her book on owls.  It certainly has been fun to be so close to them, for so long.  I truly feel like I am a part of their family.
I’ve attached more photos.  Again, I have taken them all, so use them however you want.  I do appreciate you for spreading the information.”
12. GGO mother front owlet back 7 23 15 3007 IMG_0535 (924x1280)Mother in front with prey, hungry fledgling behind.20. GGO owlet looking to sky 7 23 15 2360 IMG_0489 (994x1280) Owlet looking up, they always follow flight of other large birds overhead, e.g. Raven or hawk.  Below owlet eating mouse snack.21. GGO owlet with mouse 4713 IMG_0305 (1280x879) 22. GGO owlet swallowing mouse IMG_0314 (1280x853)23. GGO owlet still with downy feathers 7 21 15 IMG_9983 (985x1280)24. GGO owlet with mouse IMG_9994 (974x1280)30. GGO owlet having fun with water 7 20 15 3874  IMG_9644 (1280x956)31. GGO owlet getting into it 7 20 15 3708 IMG_9637 (1280x963)32. GGO owlet splashdance 3984 IMG_9640 (1280x904)Water games in bath provided by Andy Huber–feelin’ good on a hot, dry day.33. GGO owlet wet after the bath 3108 IMG_9737 (919x1280)34. GGO owlet wet and fluffy 3392 IMG_9778 (1280x1034)35. GGO owlet wet cleaning wing feather 3227 IMG_9766 (1033x1280)40. GGO owlet in anticipation 7 19 15 4015  IMG_9202 (1280x1006)Oregon State University or some other western press should pick up this book.  In these days of sad and hopeless environmental news here is a little flicker of good news in the natural world.  One that shows man is not necessarily a scourge to his fellow creatures.  Thanks for sharing, Andy.
Posted by: atowhee | July 28, 2015


I can’t help it but I imagine the American who killed a well-known male lion in Africa would instantly quote Biblical passages purporting to justify all of men’s transgression against other creatures on Earth. “Dominion,” that’s the word, right?

Well, it’s a big victory for the NRA because this killing was legal and not even on U.S. soil. I will note it took a gun, couldn’t finish off the lion with just a bow and arrow.  So much for the claims that big creatures (like movie-goers) could be slaughtered even if there were gun control in the U.S.  Swords are used in China for mass attacks and they are almost never as deadly as gun attacks have been and continue to be.

Note the gunman in the Louisiana theater killed two women, and has a long personal history of hating feminism and uppity women.  Calls are being made for it to be clearly labelled a hate crime.

Posted by: atowhee | July 28, 2015


The State of Oregon Is getting close to making some strong pro-grouse moves.  Here’s a report on the status of the pro-grouse regs.

This photo was taken at the lek off Foster Flat Road west of Malheur NWR a few years ago by Peter Kreisman…at dawn.  The sagebrush steppe of eastern Oregon is perfect habitat for this species.  The only other place I’ve seen them is on a montane plateau east of the Sierra Nevada and south of Mono Lake.


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